For the third year in a row, the demand for a "coveted" H-1B visa number has dwindled. Coincidently, the Wall Street Journal reported this lack of demand at the same time it highlighted U.S. investors' recent about-face for silver's luster. While a tangible connection between the two is tenuous at best, the H-1B program, much like the commodities markets, appears to have lost its cachet. 

Whereas, in both April 2007 and April 2008, demand far outweighed supply and the available H-1B visa numbers were used up in a matter of 24 to 48 hours, this April only 8,000 of the available 65,000 numbers were scooped up in the first five days of opening the cap to qualified candidates. The Wall Street Journal article linked above only serves to reinforce what has become a disturbing trend largely caused by the isolationist immigration policy in the United States.  While the slow pace of the U.S. recovery is certainly another factor in the declining luster of the H-1B visa, the article describes several other key factors are in play, including  increased opportunities for skilled workers in their respective home countries, increased fees for high users of the "specialty worker" visas, attacks on the H-1B program by congressional foes of the program and the recognition by U.S. employers that it has become somewhat of a liability to hire H-1B workers.

It is indeed alarming that, despite a well-documented shortage of homegrown engineering and scientific talent in the United States, our country's anti-immigrant climate is still alive and well and clearly serving to drive some of the best and brightest from around the world back to their home countries after they have been  educated by our universities.  Is it no wonder that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has referred to the current immigration policy in the United States as a form of "national suicide?"

In addition to the largely isolationist immigration policies in this country, perhaps one of the ways in which the United States is committing the so-called  "national suicide" is through its opaque system of security checks.  Through a euphemism known as "administrative processing," countless H-1B visa applicants (who have already received approval of the classification from DHS and some of whom have spent several years in the U.S. as students or on previous work visas) are delayed abroad for several months - and in some cases for more than a year - awaiting clearance by the State Department from one or more of the "animal farm" reviews (Condor, Donkey and Mantis).  These interminable bureaucratic delays in making a decision exist even though government officials acknowledge that less than 1 percent of those screened raise any legitimate security concerns.

The foregoing offers this troubling conclusion: the United States, a country built by generations of ambitious, hardworking newcomers, seems no longer interested in attracting and keeping skilled immigrants.  Our nation is experiencing a "brain drain" for the first time in its history.  The silver - let alone the gold - luster of our shores is diminishing, yet our leaders do not appear to connect the dots to our broken immigration system.

Post Authored By: Anthony F. Siliato, Esq. and Scott R. Malyk, Esq. of Meyner and Landis LLP